How the Best Leaders Leverage Learning

How the Best Leaders Leverage Learning

The best leaders know that in today’s fast-paced business-world, the half-life of any skill is only about 5 years[1]. This is due to many factors – the speed of technological advancement, the emergence of new industries, and increasing globalisation. To thrive in this type of environment, we have to pick up new skills and apply them to different situations at a mind-boggling rate. Unfortunately, we tend lose our agility and eagerness to learn as we gain experience and authority.

The best leaders buck this trend and get comfortable with the idea of not knowing everything. It doesn’t mean that they’re ill-prepared, or unskilled. It means that they are open to new ways of succeeding and open to learning. The best leaders probably attend formal workshops and trainings. They also pour over books, magazines, online courses, and even YouTube! And, they certainly also learn a lot by speaking with mentors and reflecting on their own experiences.

But what do they do with all that knowledge? Harvard Business Review (HBR) outlined what they call the Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) process. It identifies the flow of knowledge through people, into their organization. Here, we look at what happens once new knowledge has been acquired, and cover a few examples of how it can be used.

How the Best Leaders Leverage Learning

They Apply It

The best leaders ask themselves: What business challenge can this knowledge help to solve? Is there a better way to do what we do? They know that the knowledge they have acquired will only become valuable when it is applied to real-life situations. Here are some examples:

Adapt innovations from other industries

A great example is Kanban. Kanban started as a manufacturing technique to reduce component stockpiling, and has since been adapted to become a leading project management tool. (Haven’t tried Trello yet? Start saving time today!)

Use personal experiences to inspire innovation

You may have heard why Richard Branson’s created Virgin Atlantic. It all happened because of a terrible travel experience. He reflected, identified an opportunity, and acted on it.

Assimilate the latest technologies into a workflow

Forward thinking leaders scour websites like Mashable and Product Hunt for great new tools that can improve their efficiency. Think: virtual assistants that coordinate your meetings (x.ai), and one tool to regain control of your inbox (unroll.me), etc.

Save time at work by automating repetitive tasks

While the above points may take time, there are many practical examples that can be implemented right away. For example: Savvy excel-ninjas learn advanced Excel skills to help save hours each week. (To automate other things, try Zapier!)

These are just some of the ways that the best leaders take what they learn and implement it. To extend the mileage of that knowledge, the best leaders take it one step further by sharing it.

They Share It

Sharing the knowledge allows for iterative innovation and improvement by others. That being said, it can be difficult for some to relinquish the upper-hand they feel knowledge gives them. After all, knowledge is power. Right?

Well, sort of. As Abraham Lincoln said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” An organization with siloed information is no different. Knowledge is far more powerful when it’s shared within your organization. This is something that the best leaders realise!

There are many practical approaches that the best leaders use to share knowledge in their organization:

Create an internal social intranet

It can help to make information more accessible. Targeted groups on Slack, Yammer, or Workplace can be low-friction ways to get information out.

Shared an archive of ideas

Tools like OneNote, Evernote and Google Drive allow you to store a variety of information and organise it to suit your organization.

Send a digest of new ideas

A great one for swamped teams that hate logging into new tools. A simple email digest of news links with summaries of findings from the week (or month) can be a low-stress, high-impact solution.

Make space in existing meetings

Existing sales or marketing meetings might be able to fit another agenda item. A simple process for team members to add 5 minutes to share their knowledge can open up a whole new wave of discussions and ideas.  

Leverage ‘water-cooler’ moments

Sometimes sharing doesn’t need a complicated process. A casual chat over coffee might be all you need to bring up new information and spark ideas in each other.

Sharing knowledge allows others to use your effort as a jumping-off-point and accelerates innovation. Always be sharing!

Ready, Set, Go!

So, how are you going to leverage your own learning? Whatever your specific situation calls for, know that you have an opportunity to bring your team to new heights by applying and sharing it!

Your Career Management Experts,

ExecBoardinAsia

 

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References

[1] http://www.newcultureoflearning.com/newcultureoflearning.pdf  (according to Thomas and brown in their book “A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change”, 2011)